The cell phone frenzy bridges all worlds. Cell phones are sold amid the Calvin Klein and Clinique stores under the soaring atriums of India's new malls, and in the crowded markets of its working-class neighborhoods. Bare shops in the slums sell pre-paid cards for as little as 20 cents next to packets of chewing tobacco, while street hawkers peddle car chargers at traffic lights.
The spartan Beecham's in New Delhi's Connaught Place, one of the country's seemingly ubiquitous mobile phone dealers, is overrun with lunchtime customers of all classes looking for everything from a 35,000 rupee ($790) Blackberry Torch to a basic 1,150 rupee ($26) Nokia.
Store manager Sanjeev Malhotra adds to a decades-old -and still unfulfilled -Hindi campaign slogan promising food, clothing and shelter. "Roti, kapda, makaan" and "mobile," he riffs, laughing. "Basic needs."
Image: In this Oct. 14, 2010 photo, children watch television in their makeshift home in the Rafiq Nagar slum in Mumbai.